Category Archives: Scams

Tips to help avoid the many types of scams out there

Google Docs threat

Recently, there has been a noticeable increase pfishing attacks–notably using the Google Docs scam.  You get an email from someone offering to share a document on Google Docs.  If you don’t have a Google account, don’t use Gmail or don’t have anything stored in Google Docs, you don’t have to worry.  However, if you do use Gmail be advised that clicking on the link you are sent will allow hackers to download your entire Google history and Google contacts, etc.  Just delete the mail.  DO NOT click on the link!

Here’s a link to an article that talks about remediation: steps: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/massive-gmail-google-doc-phishing-email

You’ve Won!

This scam is very familiar.  You shouldn’t fall for it.  No one should. But they do.

Sure, everyone wants to win a prize.  I keep waiting for the people from Publishers Clearinghouse to show up at my door!

If you get a call or a letter telling you that you won but you need to send some money to pay for shipping and handling or some other charge, keep your money in your pocket.  You didn’t win anything.

How about if the caller tells you that you must act right now or the offer won’t be any good.  The best thing to do is hang up.

How about when they ask for personal information such as your bank account number (so they can send your money)?  Nah!  Hang up.

Guard against these “opportunities.”  Keep your money and credit card in your pocket.  You’ll be money ahead.

Scams Targeting Senior Citizens

You always see warnings about these scams.  You read about them and tell yourself that you won’t fall for them.  But you do.  How do I know?  You call me and tell me and ask for help getting out of whatever you’ve gotten into.  So–let’s go over some now.\:

1. The Grandparent Scam–there is a description of this listed in another post, but a new twist consists of you getting a call telling you that your grandchild has been kidnapped and you need to pay the ransom.  NEVER send any money to these people until you verify the whereabouts of your grandchild.

2. Medicare Scam–most often Medicare itself is targeted.  But you may also be targeted. A “representative” calls you asking you to verify personal information.  Don’t give out any.  Medicare already has your information.  They will not ask for it.

3. Reverse Mortgage Scams–Do not take out a reverse mortgage without advice from a trusted financial professional.

Along the lines of mortgages, you may receive a call from someone telling you that if your mortgage is paid off, you need a Deed of Reconveyance or you you will have serious legal problems.  They will offer to get you one if you pay for it for somewhere around $175.  This is a document that you get when you pay off your mortgage. It’s a publicly available document that you can get from the county for a small processing charge.

There are many, many more scams including funeral pre-payment scams, lottery scams, scareware (fake virus) scams.   Here is a really useful page that will offer more valuable advice: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud/fraud.

Phone Scams

More and more people are getting calls from a company that identifies themselves as “Microsoft Help,” “Windows Help,” “Windows Remote Support,” and the like.  These people tell you that it has come to their attention that your computer has been reporting a lot of errors and they want to help you.  Or, they tell you that they have noticed a lot of virus activity on your computer.

The object here is to have you let them access your computer remotely.  Don’t do it.  Once in your computer, they can steal your data, use your computer to illegally access other networks, or they can talk you into paying them a sum of money to allow them to perform all sorts of computer maintenance which you don’t need.

The best thing to do is just hang up.  NEVER let anyone access your computer remotely unless you have asked for that help–such as a trusted technician or possibly help from a software company when you are asking for help about a program you are using.

The Grandparent Phone Scam

While this doesn’t really have anything to do with my usual subject—computers—I felt that it was something you should know about.  I’ve heard of this scam, but had never actually experienced it.  Until I got one of these calls.  This is how it goes:

You get a call from a young man who says something like “Hello?  Grandpa?”  He then asks “Do you know who this is?”  You, of course, say the name of one of your grandsons.  Hint—this is where you hang up.  If you don’t, you’ll hear a great sob story including “don’t tell my mom about this” and it ends with a request that you send him money to bail him out of a really big mess.

I started answering the question then I stopped—I suddenly remembered the scam.  In the first place, our only grandson who is not a little kid doesn’t call me Grandpa.  Then, listening to the sob story, which included stuff about drugs, auto accidents, etc I finally got tired of it and hung up.

Your first inclination as grandparents is a desire to help.  Perhaps the first thing to do is ask the caller’s name—not give him a name.  Because they don’t know you, they probably won’t know a name to give you.  If the name is correct, perhaps you should say you’re going to check with their parents.  This will should end the conversation!

Disaster Scams

In today’s world of rapid communications, disasters (both natural and man-made) are broadcast worldwide very soon after the dust settles.  The speed with which the bad news spreads also makes it possible for scammers to try to make money at the expense of those suffering from the disaster.

Beware of solicitations for help for disaster victims.  One recent example was the Japan earthquake and tsunami.  Crooks wasted little time sending out false requests for money. Some sites (and  emails) solicited funds supposedly to help victims.  In reality, the money never got to the victims.  Instead, the crooks just smiled all the way to the bank!  These sites went so far as to create icons that looked like PayPal links to help the visitors part with their money.

They also set up a number of virus-laden sites that showed up in search engines for people searching for words like “earthquake in Japan.”  Anyone who clicked on the links in these sites activated a pop-up “scareware” window that tried to frighten victims into believing they had a badly infected PC and must pay to have it removed.

Remember, when you see links either in an e-mail or on a website, run your mouse over the link and look at the bottom of your screen to see where you are really being directed.  Don’t be a victim yourself!

Tax Scams

‘Tiz the season to be thinking really hard about starting to get your income tax records together and file your taxes.  This is also a really good time to get scammed by companies trying to convince you that they are out to help you accomplish this task.

You can get mail (from the IRS) that says something like: “…after the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $63.80.”  All you have to do is send your social security number and bank routing number.  NOT!  The IRS will never contact you by mail telling you of a refund.

There is also a relatively new scam that directs you to a handy web form that you can use to check on the status of your tax return and refund.  Supposedly sent by the IRS.  All you need to do is fill it out with information like your social security number, credit card number, full name, etc.  Fill it in and it’s a guarantee that your identity is at risk and you’ll soon be in a world of hurt.

Again—the simple thing to remember is that NO institution (bank, credit union, investment firm, etc) that has sensitive information will ever ask you for it by email.  Not even by providing a link within the mail to click to get to their site.  Do not respond to these mails!

Scareware

In the past, we discussed rogue anti-virus programs.  They are still around.  They call themselves things like “Antivirus 2014.”  I’m frequently asked why, if there is an internet security program installed on the computer, do these things keep showing up?  Well, they are not technically a virus.  Many are programs created with Flash and act like a movie playing.  The problem is it’s a movie that you can’t turn off!  No matter how many times you click on the “X” the windows keep appearing.  Some versions open 10 or more windows in a really short time.  Annoying, to say the least.

While many of these programs aren’t harmful (they aren’t busy deleting data), they can ruin your day and make your computer useless—they just fill up the screen and try to get you to pay money to get them to go away.  They can also prevent you from navigating to an antivirus site where you might find a utility to remove them.  When you try to access one of the many antivirus companies’ sites, you’ll be blocked.

There are a number of ways to get this junk to go away, but ror right now, restarting the computer in safe mode and doing a system restore may help.  Once you do the restore, run MalwareBytes (you can get it from www.malwarebytes.org).  This should pick up the bad stuff.  If you don’t scan for malware, you will probably find yourself right back where you were at the beginning of the day. If this procedure makes you uncomfortable, just give us a call and we can assist you.

Celebrity Name Scams

A popular mail scam by those who are trying to get your personal info involves sending a mail  with a link claiming to show you sensational news or pictures of celebrities or other famous people, including pop stars and politicians.

Don’t be fooled.  Don’t click on the attachments.  A big red flag would be if the attached file has a .zip extension.  This guaranteed to cause you grief!  Don’t do it.  Use only your delete button here.

You are not going to learn anything about celebrities by clicking on these links, nor will you see pics of them in awkward situations.  You will, however, most likely become infected with malware.

Also noted was the hacking of celebrities’  Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Hackers take over these accounts to post malicious or outrageous comments.

Thanks to the Scambusters.org site for these hints.

Rogue Anti-Virus Scams

You all have heard of viruses.  Like viruses that infect living beings, computer viruses infect your computer. They are software, and are often attached to other software or documents you might receive. When you run the virus’s software or the file the virus has infected, the virus can infect your computer’s software.

Viruses can gather email addresses from your computer and send itself to everyone you know.  Sometimes this is just an annoyance—spreading spam and other useless messages.  But sometimes it can carry what we call a “payload” that installs itself on your computer and really messes you up.  We can save the discussion of the various kinds of viruses for another time.  This time we’ll talk about something else.

I’ve had many calls from people who say their computer is infected because there is a big message on the screen that says it is infected.  Then the message starts a “scan” that scares you to death.  This is called a “Rogue Anti-Virus.”  It’s actually a program that sneaked into your computer and is generating the message.  The problem is, you can’t work, ‘cause the messages won’t go away.  They keep popping up and trying to get you to give money to someone to clear it up.  Don’t do that!

Don’t despair—get a trusted computer tech to help out.  It takes just a little effort by someone who knows what they are doing to get rid of this pest.  I’ll be posting some easy fixes on our website as soon as I get time.